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Determining the Mohs scale of hardness, which lists 10 common minerals in their relative order of hardness: talc (softest with the scale number 1), gypsum (2), calcite (3), fluorite (4), apatite (5), orthoclase (6), quartz (7), topaz (8), corundum (9), and diamond (10).

(For further examples, Moon, for example, provided scientists with firsthand information on lunar geology, including observations on such features as meteorite craters that are relatively rare on Earth.

Earthquake seismology has largely been responsible for defining the location of major plate boundaries and of the dip of subduction zones down to depths of about 700 kilometres at those boundaries.

In other subdisciplines of geophysics, gravimetric techniques are used to determine the shape and size of underground structures; electrical methods help to locate a variety of mineral deposits that tend to be good conductors of electricity; and paleomagnetism has played the principal role in tracking the drift of continents.

Paleontology is the study of fossils and is concerned not only with their description and classification but also with an analysis of the evolution of the organisms involved.

Simple fossil forms can be found in early Precambrian rocks as old as 3,500,000,000 years, and it is widely considered that life on Earth must have begun before the appearance of the oldest rocks.

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